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Hi all,

Just found a nice (old) post on an organ forum about the great (but not so well known) tenor sax player Willis 'Gator Tail' Jackson:
http://www.organissimo.org/forum/in...llis-gator-tail-jackson-described-himself-as/

It gives some nice extra information compared to the Wiki page about Willis:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Jackson_(saxophonist)

Some quotes from the first link:

Von Freeman remark about Willis Jackson:
“Man, I went on a trip with that cat. Man, if you are not together, he'll blow you off that bandstand, because he's got such a big, robust style, and he can play forty different ways.”
Check this SOTW thread I posted 6 years ago if you want to hear some of the live work Willis and Von did together in Laren (NL) back in 1978:
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...-Freeman-live-in-The-Netherlands-(Laren-1978)

Another quote:
Though not generally an innovator, Willis was responsible for one innovation. He designed and played the Gator Horn, introducing it in 1967. It’s a strange instrument, with a bell hanging down almost to the floor and makes an other-worldly sound which Willis described as “somewhere between an alto sax, a soprano sax and a French horn”. Reportedly, John Coltrane was getting interested in the instrument, but died before he could take it up. Who knows what might have come of this? As it is, Willis remained the only musician to record with it.
That horn was actually a Conn-o-sax. I found an old SOTW thread discussing this, see this post and below:
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...r-quot-Jackson&p=691795&viewfull=1#post691795

For the gear freaks: Gator was playing a huge 12* tip Otto Link mouthpiece with Rico Plasticover 4 reeds on (mostly) a Conn saxophone, see this thread:
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?333722-Willis-Jackson

And finally for those who don't know his playing, check this amazing solo on 'Bar Wars' (including Pat Martino on guitar):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMHCNdnATLo

Enjoy. :)
 

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I love Gator!!!!

Back to Sorrento---killer! A Louis Prima vibe here.

Thanks for the great post.





Listen to the whole thing.....
 

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Thanks for the positive reactions gents. :)

Also thanks for the clip Mark, indeed a strong Louis Prima vibe (including how Willis and Sam Butera sound alike in this recording).
 

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And finally for those who don't know his playing, check this amazing solo on 'Bar Wars' (including Pat Martino on guitar):
Awesome tone and style. Just don't hear enough of this anymore.
 

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Great post, mrpeebee, it brought back memories from the 50's/60's when I was going out every night to hear or play some music. I saw Willis Jackson with the great drummer Joe Dukes in Newark, NJ several times. Blew me away with his huge sound & aggressive playing. Those were the days! Thanks!
George
 

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Sam used a Berg metal.
Yeah, my understanding is that he played Charlie Ventura 110/0 with #5 Plasticover reeds.
I checked a bit further and also that he played a Berg Larsen with Plasticover 5 reeds. Don't know where I got it from, but I always assumed he played in the early Louis Prima recordings (like in Buona Sera) a big tip Link because he sounded so rich and full on those tracks. In his later recordings his sound did change to more generic and less rich and I also saw him with a Berg on those more recent pictures, so I assumed he did change somewhere in his career from Link to Berg. But probably not, because he states this in an interview I just found:

Source: http://www.researchpubs.com/products-page-2/swing-excerpt-sam-butera/
R/S: But that wonderful, thick tone—

SB: Well, you see . . . [chuckles] Let me tell ya something about that sound. When I was a kid and went to this music store for a mouthpiece, the salesman said, “This just came in from England.” I said, “Let me try it.” I went “Toot!” and said, “That’s it!” I’ve played it ever since. That’s the sound I wanted to hear. That completely changed my tone, and that’s the truth.
Great post, mrpeebee, it brought back memories from the 50's/60's when I was going out every night to hear or play some music. I saw Willis Jackson with the great drummer Joe Dukes in Newark, NJ several times. Blew me away with his huge sound & aggressive playing. Those were the days! Thanks!
George
Unfortunately I've never saw him live, but my (pro) tenor friend Rinus Groeneveld did see him here in NL in the late 70's and told me Willis had a huge sound. I remember that I was listening to him (at age 16) in 1978 during a live radio broadcast while applying new wall paper to the walls of my sleeping room!
 

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Man that's a pretty scary solo on Bar Wars. i would feel sorry for anyone who got into a cutting contest with Willis.
 

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Man that's a pretty scary solo on Bar Wars. i would feel sorry for anyone who got into a cutting contest with Willis.
Right mascio!

Fortunately Von Freeman did survive such a contest, see this thread (including live clips):
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...-Freeman-live-in-The-Netherlands-(Laren-1978)

Willis was also a big inspiration (together with Illinois Jacquet, who also influenced Willis) for later R&B tenor greats like Red Prysock and Sil Austin. On one of the recordings of their cutting session 'Battle Royal' you hear Sil Austin talking and he mentions something about a cutting session between Red and Willis ('old Gator' he says), but I never found such a recording (it could have been a live not recorded battle).

I posted a thread about the Red and Sil battle album 'Battle Royal' many moons ago here on the forum:
https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showt...attle-records-ever-Sil-Austin-amp-Red-Prysock
 

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Hi Peter, i listened to the Von Freeman - Willis take. For technique and ideas Von Freeman holds his own. But Gator Tail's sound is so much bigger and robust! You have to love those old school tenor battles!
 

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For sure mascio, those guys and their older inspirations (Cobb, Jacquet, Evans) are my big hero's (but I like Vonsky and many others also a lot).
 
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